England Job Would Suit Arsene Wenger

Arsene-Wenger

Sam Allardyce left the England manager’s role after just one game in charge due to a sting by British newspaper The Telegraph. That means that the FA are once again on the lookout for a new boss.

Under-21 manager Gareth Southgate will take charge for the next four games as those in charge at the FA look at potential candidates. That will no doubt be an ideal time for former Three Lions international defender Southgate to stake a big claim for the top job, if he can show that he’s ready for the task in hand.

But if Gareth is found wanting at senior international level within these four games, then the net will be cast further afield.

The usual names of Steve Bruce and Alan Pardew have popped up but neither will excite the minds of the English support. They, like Sam, have had decent but not outstanding careers. They may argue that they’ve never had the big opportunities but surely there’s a reason for that.

Bournemouth gaffer Eddie Howe has also been mentioned. The thirty-eight year old has been terrific at the Cherries as he’s guided them into the Premier League and kept them in the top flight too.

Speaking as a pundit for BT Sport, Owen Hargreaves was quick to champion Howe’s case:

‘There would be less expectation. I think Eddie Howe’s side play the right way – he’s always brought players up from the lower leagues and developed them, imagine what he could do with our best England players.”

‘He would be the perfect fit for the next four to six years. Eventually you could win a major title like a European championship a World Cup in six to eight years time.”

I’d urge caution over hiring Howe.

While I think he’s a very talented young manager I believe he is still at the learning part of his career. Surely it’s better that he get’s a year or two more under his belt at Bournemouth and then look at getting one of the bigger club jobs. Let him develop his skills that way and then have him more rounded for the England job further down the line.

Let’s just give him time to prove himself.

Arsene Wenger on the other hand could be an astute choice.

The Frenchman has plenty of big game experience, likes working with younger players and help in their development. He’d be ideal to oversee a whole raft of changes from top to bottom on how the FA develops youth players, coaches and the inner workings of St George’s Park. That kind of forward thinking and planning would appeal to head honchos at the FA.

Wenger has been in England, managing Arsenal, for the past twenty years. He knows how the English game works and the players that he’d have at his disposal.

I believe the England job does require an experienced hand. Fabio Capello was experienced but not with English football. Roy Hodgson and Allardyce had the knowledge of English football but came up short with big game winning experiences.

Looking at Wenger’s situation at Arsenal and I do wonder if it would be best for both parties that there was a parting of the ways. Unlike others, I don’t think Arsene has lost his managerial nous.

I think the move to the Emirates stadium was huge for the Gunners and I think the impact it had on the team’s budget and the club struggled at a stage to get the best players through the doors. The French manager took it upon himself to steer the club through that period and even take the brunt of the blame as his side struggled to win trophies.

But during all that he still managed to secure Champions League qualification during that time, produce big victories in that competition and secure good wins in tough domestic encounters. Just last week his side beat Chelsea 3-0.

At sixty-six it really could be the ideal time for Arsene to take on a new role and maybe he’d be more suited with the international set-up, as it’s not exactly full-time. It would give him time to plan, prepare and execute ideas.

Plus will he get a better chance to get to a World Cup and live that experience?

I suppose the main person that would need convincing would be Wenger himself.

The Frenchman is obviously deeply loyal to Arsenal and seems desperate to win another league title with the club.

Everytime a club or a country has come calling in the past, Wenger has turned them down. Plus he has always stated that he’d never walk out on a contract. The FA would probably have to wait until the end of this current season before getting Arsene into the hotseat.

But the FA might be encouraged by his latest statement when discussing if he was flattered by links with England job:

‘Of course. But my priority has always been this club. Until the end of this season I’m here.’

The English game is always full of surprises.’

Later on this week he said when directly asked about taking the role:

“One day, if I’m free, why not?”

That certainly isn’t a definite no but it may be Wenger’s way to make sure the Arsenal hierarchy offer him a big bumper new deal before Christmas.

With all the bung allegations swirling around at the moment, it would make sense for the FA to chase down someone with the morals of Arsene Wenger. But whether or not they can persuade him to take it on is another matter.

Mark Warburton Needs To Start Changing Things At Rangers

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Ok let’s start by saying Rangers were probably the better team against Aberdeen yesterday. Plus the free-kick that led to the Don’s winner shouldn’t have been given.

But it’s very telling that Rangers can dominate a game but not get a result from it. Now if it just happened the one time then that would be fine but it’s happened continually so far this season.

In their last four Scottish Premiership games, Rangers have won the stats battles on three occasions yet they’ve only picked up two points from twelve. They now lie in seventh spot with a total tally of nine points from seven games.

When you consider their budget that’s not good enough and clearly something needs to change.

Scoring goals seems to be a main problem, with only two teams (Patrick Thistle & Ross County) scoring less than Gers eight goals so far this term. In the last four league games, scoring just three times, only Joe Garner’s consolation goal against Celtic came from open play.

I’m not sure why Gers boss Mark Warburton doesn’t go with two up-top?

You look at £1.5m new signing Joe Garner and you can see a striker that likes to get under the skin of an opponent. The bully boy type that roughs up centre-backs but you don’t see much in the way of goals. I am sure he’ll get some but I think his final tally maybe closer to that he scored in the Championship for Preston North End and not his record from League One.

Garner’s style and aggression could lead to more goals for a striking partner. Yes Martyn Waghorn can play out on the right but he’s more lethal through the middle. Gers also have young Joe Dodoo who could possibly be a pacy, prolific partner, if given the chance.

Another criticism I’d level at Warburton is his lack of urgency to change things during a game. He seems content to go like for like rather than change the style, tempo or formation. If you look across the city, Brendan Rodgers has made changes to his side’s strategy and they’ve yielded better results for Celtic.

Countless games have been won because a manager decided to tinker things from the bench. It’s rarer to see a team that’s been worked out come away with a win without changing something.

The Gers management team decided to drop Niko Kranjcar to the bench, it was obvious to everyone that the Croatian wasn’t quite up to the pace. The time could be right for Warburton to do the same with Barrie Mackay and rest the young winger. I’m a huge fan of Barrie but in recent weeks he’s hardly had a kick, so maybe he’ll benefit more from a spell on the bench and then hopefully come back stronger!

What does Michael O’Halloran have to do to get a starting berth in this underperforming Gers side? When the Ibrox faithful have seen him this term he has usually impressed and looked better than those that have started regularly. He knows what the Premiership is all about and has pace that frightens defenders.

Now for Joey Barton.

I think the last two league games prove that Barton wasn’t the problem on the park. Yes he hasn’t  been the best player in the country, as he predicted, but I just think he wasn’t as bad as people have suggested either.

My main issue with the Barton saga is why is it all taking so long? Everyone at Rangers must’ve known he was a passionate and opinionated man, I met him and knew that within an hour! So issues with him could have and should have been predicted, then you could’ve had plans in place for such events.

The two year deal handed to the thirty-four year old always looked a bit risky. But Warburton has to either deal with him or get rid of him. What’s the point in suspending him for three weeks?

The problems don’t just start and end with the forwards either.

In the Scottish Cup final, Anthony Stokes showed everyone that Rangers were vulnerable at the back and those issues haven’t been fixed over the summer.

James Tavenier still goes forward too much and can’t get to grips with his defensive duties.

As a partnership Rob Kieran and Danny Wilson make too many mistakes in my opinion.

Clint Hill is slower than a snail traveling through peanut butter! Which isn’t helpful if the right-back and his fellow centre-back can’t cover for him. It’s probably too early to really judge Philippe Senderos but it was telling that Hill was selected ahead of him for the clash at Pittodrie.

Unlike others I don’t think this is the end of the road for Mark Warburton at Ibrox but he needs to adapt to his surroundings. At some clubs they prefer style over just winning games by whatever means, Rangers aren’t one of those clubs!

At the moment forget all about the title, it’s hard to see this Rangers team finishing in the top three!

Conte’s Defensive Crisis At Chelsea

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Antonio Conte’s successes with Juventus and Italy were built on solid defensive foundations.

He could rely on legendary goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and with the battling trio of Giorgio Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli playing just in front of him.

So it was understandable to see the Italian coach pulling his hair-out during his sides 3-0 defeat to Arsenal on Saturday.

When you look at the Gunners opening goal it stems from Chelsea’s poor passing.

Firstly Branislav Ivanovic should have played an easy ball inside to Cesc Fabregas but for some reason he delays and dodders on the ball before playing it back to Gary Cahill. Now you can’t directly blame the Serbian international for conceding the goal as his pass back to Cahill was fine but I think he could have shown a bit more eagerness to find an attacking pass rather than a back-pass.

Now we get to Cahill. His first touch wasn’t great and he needs to realise that Alexis Sanchez is running him down and that the Chilean won’t give anything up. The pass was well undercooked and from there on in it was curtains for the England international and his team.

Cahill was unlucky at Swansea when he didn’t get a foul as Leroy Fer barged into the back of him but the truth is that the defender now looks as if his confidence has been shot. When that happens errors always creep in. But at the moment, due to injuries, it looks unlikely to see him come out of the team.

Too many times last term Ivanovic was on the wrong end of a roasting. Now I’ve said in the past that the defender has to go down as one of Chelsea’s best ever signings. But he seems a lot slower these days and is fast becoming a passenger in this team.

When you look at Arsenal’s second you can see that full-back Cesar Azpilicueta gets distracted by the run of Theo Walcott. He follows that run and leaves Hector Bellerin, probably hoping that Eden Hazard will track the Arsenal right-back’s run. The Belgian falls asleep and Bellerin is free to receive the ball in the box and pick out an unmarked Walcott to tap in. Azpilicueta and Hazard need to communicate better there!

Plus look at the end-play to the goal. Ballerin unmarked slides it across to an unmarked Walcott. The narrow Chelsea back four are behind the run of play and between them they are marking no one!

After following Theo’s run, Azpilicueta then gets caught ball watching and realising Hazard hasn’t been quick enough to track Bellerin. Centre back David Luiz doesn’t seem to have any clue that Walcott has just run-in behind him.

That brings me nicely to David Luiz. Why on earth have Chelsea re-signed this guy? Yes he’s a fans favourite and yes he can make some decent passes from the back but his defending ability has always been questionable.

It was obvious all summer that Conte wanted a new centre-back. Bonucci and Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly were constantly linked with a move to the Blues.

The Luiz signing looks like a panic buy, it’s as simple as that. He definitely doesn’t have those warrior like qualities that Conte adores in his defenders. Plus no one at PSG seemed overly disappointed in seeing the back of the Brazilian.

In Arsenal’s final goal, neither Luiz or Cahill actually commit themselves to set-up and confront an incoming Mesut Ozil or stay with Sanchez. It was a two on two situation, yet the two Chelsea defenders never got near the Arsenal forwards!

Those were just the goals, the Gunners managed to carve out numerous opportunities that thankfully for Chelsea went unpunished.

The signing of N’Golo Kante to play alongside Nemanja Matic was meant to help protect the defence but they were outrun, overrun and they couldn’t get a grip of the game. They need to do more to boss games.

Thibaut Courtois’ current displays don’t exude confidence at the moment either. That won’t help settle the nerves at the back.

I’d imagine that Conte will be desperate to see veteran captain John Terry and young Frenchman Kurt Zouma back to full fitness and adding competition for defensive places.

After a fine start to the season, Chelsea’s players have now reverted back to last season’s weak and insipid performances. They cannot afford to find themselves in that rut again.

After the game Antonio Conte said:

‘After this game, this defeat, it’s normal for me not to sleep. I reflect. And it’s important to reflect.’

I bet the Italian will be plotting on ways to improve his defence and a few in that dressing room may now find themselves being phased out.

Where Are They Now? Celtic’s Three Amigos

Celtic Paradise

In 1996/97, Rangers would go on and secure their ninth title in a row. But in a lot of people’s minds Celtic were actually the better team on the eye and often more entertaining to watch.

The Hoops would finish the season only five points behind the eventual champions. Celtic manager Tommy Burns had fashioned together a very attack minded team.

Three players in particular stood out and they were named the ‘Three Amigos‘ by the then Celtic supremo Fergus McCann, who had a run-in with all three forwards. Those three men were Pierre van Hooijdonk, Jorge Cadete and Paolo Di Canio.

The three left in 1997 after fall-outs with McCann over wages. Basically they wanted more money and McCann was never a man to accept that kind of demand.

But what happened to the ‘The Three Amigos’?

Pierre van Hooijdonk:

Pierre was signed by Celtic for a fee 0f £1.2m from NAC Breda. He joined in January 1995 and scored against Hearts on his debut. Then in May of that year, Van Hooijdonk became a firm fan favourite with his Scottish Cup winning goal as Celtic beat Airdrie 1-0 to win their first trophy in six years!

He was a big tall striker that was equally as good in the air as he was on the ground. Had a stunning strike on him and was a huge threat when stepping up to take free-kicks.

In the famous 96-97 season Van Hooijdonk would hit fourteen league goals in twenty-one appearances. But then things would seriously unravel when he requested a better deal from McCann.

Pierre would go on radio and state:

“£7,000 may be good for a homeless person, but £7,000 a week is not good enough for a top class forward”

That statement didn’t go down well in Glasgow’s East End pubs or in the boardroom and McCann would sell him to Nottingham Forest for a £4.5m fee in the March before the season’s end. He would score 56 times in 72 goals in all for Celtic.

Van Hoojidonk would struggle initially in the Premier League and couldn’t help save the club from relegation in 97. He would then bang in twenty-nine times and help Forest bounce straight back into England’s top flight. His form there would earn him a spot in the Netherlands World Cup 98′ squad.

But then controversy reared its ugly head again as Van Hooijdonk returned from the World Cup disappointed by the club’s summer transfer activity. After the club refused his transfer request the striker would throw his toys out the pram and he’d go on strike!

Discussing his forwards actions, Forest manager Dave Basset said:

“He’s entitled to his view but – sod him basically.”

He stayed away from the City Ground until November, by that time he knew that he wasn’t going to get his own way and that the footballing world was firmly against him. He famously scored against rivals Derby County, yet none of his teammates would celebrate with him. Nottingham Forest would finish bottom of the Premier League that season.

After that fiasco he’d return to his homeland and join Vitesse Arnhem. He’d spend just one season back in the Eredivsie scoring twenty-five league goals. Pierre would then spend a season in Portugal with Benfica and would again score regularly.

After his spell in Portugal, he would once again return home and this time Feyenoord was his destination. He would play 79 times for the Rotterdam club and score an incredible 62 goals. He’d become a club legend after helping them to a Uefa Cup victory in 2002, seeing off Rangers on their way to the final.

Van Hoojidonk would then join Turkish side Fenerbahçe and help them to league title before returning to NAC Breda and then finishing his career off with a second spell at Feyenoord.

A superb goalscorer but you wonder what might have been had he learned to deal with certain issues in the proper manner. He’s since stated that he was wrong to leave Celtic the way that he did and that he shouldn’t have went on strike during his stint at Forest.

Nowadays Pierre van Hooijdonk works as a TV Pundit in his homeland. He was the victim of a £2m act of fraud and is the agent of current Celtic forward Nadir Çiftçi.

Paolo Di Canio:

Tommy Burns managed to persuade Paolo Di Canio to change Milan for Glasgow.

Di Canio was a gifted forward but he was also pretty temperamental. His famous exchange with Ian Ferguson during the Old Firm derby at Celtic Park showed him at his craziest and also at his most passionate.

Whether it was his goals,  runs, tricks or his different coloured Pantofola d’ora boots you couldn’t miss Paolo on the football field.

Van Hoojidonk and Cadete would love playing with Di Canio as he could make chances out of nothing. He was named the Scottish players player of the year after the 96/97 season ended.

It took him a bit of time to get used to the rough and tumble of the Scottish game but he never turned his back on a fight and boss Tommy Burns was always there to put an arm around the Italian’s shoulders.

So when Burns was sacked in the summer of 97′, Di Canio would express his extreme displeasure at the decision:

“At this moment I feel Fergus McCann has made a mistake because Tommy Burns was a good manager for me.”

Di Canio would then complain about his Celtic deal. Really he was just eyeing a move away from the club and he refused to join the Hoops preseason trip.

Celtic would ‘trade’ him for Sheffield Wednesday’s Regi Blinker plus cash. The least said about Blinker the better, but Di Canio struck 15 times in his one and only season at Parkhead.

After a bright first season with Wednesday, Di Canio’s career would nosedive after he infamously shoved referee Paul Alcock to the ground and he’d receive an eleven game ban. He would never play for the Owls again and in January 1999 he joined Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United side in a £1.5m deal.

Di Canio would spend the next four and a half years with the Hammers where his style and passion made him a club legend. Supposedly Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him for Man United but his heart belonged to West Ham. Fifa would award him with a Fair Play Award after he chose to catch a cross rather than score into an empty net while Everton keeper Paul Gerrard lay on the ground injured.

He would also score one, if not the, best Premier League goal of all time for the Irons, with a near perfect volley.

After departing West Ham in 2004 the ageing forward then moved to Carlton Athletic and helped them to a seventh place finish in the Premier League.

He would then rejoin his boyhood heroes Lazio and spend two seasons with ‘I Biancocelesti’.

In Rome he would score in the derby game against Roma. But while he enjoyed a close relationship with the clubs ultras, he had a strained relationship with the club president and his deal wasn’t renewed. His return to Lazio was marred by his political views and his insistence to produce facist salutes to the stands.

He retired as a player after two seasons with lowly Cisco Roma. Di Canio would then become a manager in England winning the League Two championship with Swindon Town and overseeing Sunderland survival bid in 2013.

But his fiery temper was never too far away and he’d continually fall-out with players and eventually lose the dressing rooms.

He has since made it clear that he would one day like to manage Celtic. But that appointment looks unlikely given his poor record with playing personnel and his far right political views. Earlier this month he was suspended from Sky Italia from his punditry job after various complaints from viewers regarding his visible facist tattoos.

Jorge Cadete:

A player I knew of before he joined Celtic as he produced a brace as Portugal slaughtered Scotland 5-0 in a World Cup qualifier in 1993. Three years later and the long-haired hitman would rock-up to Celtic Park.

His transfer would cause serious problems between Celtic and the SFA after the deal was seemingly being held up by the SFA without much or any reason, thus meaning he missed an Old Firm game. That would spell the end of Chief Exec Jim Farry at Hampden.

In his only full season at Parkhead, the Portuguese striker he would grab 33 goals in 44 matches in all competitions and that made him the country’s top scorer. He would come alive when he received the ball in the box and could score all kinds of goals.

Had a flashpoint in an Old Firm derby when he had a goal wrongly chopped off during the New Year match that could have saved the Hoops at least a point in that contest.

Cadete was another who enjoyed his time working under Burns, and the Celtic boss even invited his chief goalscorer over to enjoy Christmas dinner with him and his family.

Cadete said this of Burns:

“It will always mean a lot to me that it was Tommy who gave me the opportunity to wear the Celtic shirt. I had a very strong connection with him from the first time we met.”

Unfortunately Jorge too felt he couldn’t stay in Glasgow beyond 1997 and like Di Canio he stayed away from preseason training citing that he couldn’t settle and had mental health issues. Like the others he made it known to the press that his contract at Celtic wasn’t good enough and that he wanted to leave.

He’d join Celta Vigo for a £3.5m fee and then after one full season there he would join Benfica. That move saw him reunited with Van Hooijdonk but by that time Cadete had lost his goalscoring touch. Uninspiring loan spells at Bradford City and Estrela da Amadora soon followed.

Jorge would then retire from football, star in Portugal’s celebrity version of Big Brother and then he returned to football where he’d end up at Patrick Thistle of all places. That was after being snapped in a Raith Rovers strip after supposedly agreeing to sign for them first. His return to Scotland was short and goalless.

He would then join two lower league Portuguese sides before retiring for a second time in 2007.

After two failed marriages and poor speculation with his finances, it was reported that Cadete was living with his parents and that he was close to being broke.

Jorge Cadete has since stated that he wants to become a coach. In 2015 he announced on his Twitter page that he has become the general manager of União Futebol Clube de Almeirim. It was recently suggested in the Portuguese press that Cadete was interested in going to Angola in a bid to kick-start his coaching prospects.

Sadly Jorge recently announced the passing of his father and I’d like to pass on my condolences.

These three men will forever go down in Celtic folklore but their ultimate greed denied them legendary status. They all shared a good relationship with the late great Tommy Burns and it’s just a shame that they couldn’t help him win a title at Parkhead. 

Inter Hope Gabigol Can Be Clubs Next South American Superstar

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This week Internazionale paraded their late summer signing Brazilian striker Gabriel Barbosa, also known as ‘Gabigol’.

Inter Milan have a rich history of South American striking heroes with Jair, Ruben Sosa, Ivan Zamorano, Ronaldo, Alvaro Recoba, Adriano and Diego Milito all starring for ‘I Nerazzurri’.

The current main man for Inter at the moment is Argentine forward Mauro Icardi, who is also the team’s captain.

Gabriel will be hoping that he can strike up a fantastic partnership with Icardi and fire Inter into Serie A title condition this season. That could start on Sunday as Inter host Bologna at the San Siro.

Inter’s new arrival was quick to show his respect for his new captain:

“He’s an idol,”

“I’ve been following him forever and think he’s a top player.”

The new €29.5m man has been the Italian giant’s marquee signing this summer and brought in by the club’s new Chinese owners, who also arrived this year.

Suning Sports will hope that in Gabriel Barbosa they have a world-class superstar in the making.

I’d imagine that he’ll get physically stronger playing in Italy. But it will be interesting to see how long it takes for twenty year old to settle into European life.

At Santos, he managed to bag 56 goals in 154 appearances. This summer he was part of the historic Brazilian side that won their first Olympic gold medal. The youngster scored twice in his sides home Olympics.

In terms of talent and stature he reminds of another protege Neymar (I know it’s bit obvious) but maybe not as flashy. Great with the ball at his feet, likes to dribble past opponents and also has that Brazilian creative instinct that brings out the audacious tricks to get beyond a marker.

With a nickname like Gabigol you can only imagine he has a keen eye for goal, which is true. But again, like Neymar, he often finds himself out on the wing and creating chances for others as well as for himself.

Can often be found coming in off the right-side and finding a corner with his left foot, but is equally adept at finishing within the penalty area.

Obviously the pressure is going to be intense for Gabriel in Milan. Inter haven’t been successful since Jose Mourinho’s triumphant era of 2010 and the fans have had to watch on as Juventus dominated Italian football in recent years.

It might be too early this term to expect Internazionale to really put up a stiff challenge for the Scudetto but they are well placed and the fans will always expect to be a threat.

New boss Frank de Boer has managed to get them up to fifth in the league and they’re just two points off top spot. They’ve managed three wins in their last three league outings and that included a 2-1 win over champions Juve.

Plus they now have some new inspiration in the form of Gabriel Barbosa and if he can add more goals to this Inter side, then maybe just maybe they can win that elusive nineteenth Scudetto.

Where Are They Now? The 2012 Rangers Division Three Side

Ibrox Front

So we all know about the financial meltdown of 2012 that saw Rangers in administration, then the company was liquidated and the new company had to start life in Scotland’s old Division Three

The date was the 11th of August 2012 and a hastily arranged Gers squad, which still had a few old faces, went north to face unfamiliar opponents and came back with a point after a 2-2 draw

Fast forward four years and Rangers are once again in the top flight but what happened to the players that started against Peterhead at Balmmor Stadium in front of a record breaking 4,500 crowd?

Neil Alexander:

Had joined Rangers in 2008 and spent most of his time at Ibrox as Allan McGregor’s understudy. That year in the bottom league would be the goalkeeper’s only season as Ger’s number one goalie and he’d leave after one season with the club in the lower leagues.

He jumped from Division Three to the English Premier League when he left Rangers on a free in 2013 and signed for newly promoted Crystal Palace. He spent a year with the Eagles but couldn’t break into their team.

Alexander would then join Hearts and spend two years with the capital side. He’d win promotion in his first season with the Jambos, denying his old side Rangers promotion, and help the team finish third in the Premiership last term.

Now thirty-five, Alexander joined Aberdeen in the summer and he’s back up for Joe Lewis at Pittodrie.

Kirk Broadfoot:

Kirk was always a funny player, he was well loved at Ibrox but also became a bit of a laughing stock at times. His gangly, unnatural running style created much amusement and let’s never forget his egg related injury!

As many just departed the club, Broadfoot would at least stay for the first month to help the club out. Against Peterhead he still managed to seem out of his depth. Ultimately he was a loyal player who gave his all and helped the club to three league titles and a UEFA Cup final.

Broadfoot would leave Ibrox by mutual consent at the end of August 2012 and has since forged a decent career for himself in the English Championship, originally with Blackpool and then with Rotherham United.

In 2015 he was banned for ten matches by The FA for verbally abusing James McLean, it was widely reported that the nature of the abuse was deemed sectarian. He remains with the Millers and is playing under former Celtic and Hibs man Alan Stubbs this season.

Dorin Goian:

The big Romanian had a fantastic start to his Gers career in 2011. But as the financial mess took hold at the club his form seemed to disappear too.

By all accounts the centre-half loved Glasgow and enjoyed playing for the club. But the reality of the situation set in after his outing in Peterhead and he asked the club for a move away. He has since stated that he’d have happily stayed on had they just been demoted by one tier.

Would leave in 2012 for a loan spell in Italy with Spezia. During his years stay with the Aquilotti Goian would receive a four game suspension for pushing a referee and this almost resulted in him  coming back to Ibrox in January 2013.

In the summer of 2013 he was released from his Gers contract and moved to Greece to play for Asteras Tripoli. He retired this summer after spending three years with the Greek Super League side. It was then announced that he would return to Romania and become Executive President/Sporting Administrator at his first club Foresta Suceava.

Carlos Bocanegra: 

Carlos would amass 110 international caps with the USA.

Like fellow centre-back Goian, Bocanegra enjoyed his time in Scotland and became a fan favourite at Ibrox. But after three games in Scotland’s bottom tier he departed for Spanish second division side Racing Santander, on loan, in the hope of earning an international recall.

After his year in Spain, he would negotiate his release from Rangers (the club needed him off the wage bill) and he’d then go on and play two seasons with MLS side Chivas USA.

Carlos Bocanegra retired as a player in 2014 and he’s now Technical Director with new MLS franchise club Atlanta United FC, they will start in the league next year.

In an interview with the Daily Record he said this about that game against Peterhead:

‘There was a cool atmosphere up there. We played poorly and stole a point, I remember that.’

Lee Wallace: 

One of only two players from that day that’s still at Ibrox.

The marauding left-back has now become the club’s captain, has earned international recalls and won the Third Division, Scottish League and the Championship titles as well as the Challenge Cup.

Will no doubt become a legend and hall of famer for all that he’s done and sacrificed by staying with the club. At the time of writing he’s managed 220 appearances for Rangers and scored 22 goals.

Ian Black: 

One of the clubs major summer signings that year. He was convinced to drop down the leagues to help get Rangers back into the Premiership.

Ian would play regularly for the ‘Light Blues’ in his three years at the club but his style would never really win over the Gers fanbase. In 2013 he was suspended and fined by the SFA for breaching rules on players betting on football.

Something of note is the fact that Black won his one and only Scotland cap while playing for Rangers in Division Three when he came on against Australia in 2012.

Left the Govan club when his contract expired last year and he would end up playing for English League One side Shrewsbury Town and he remains there to this day.

Andy Little: 

The Northern Irish forward would breakthrough into the Rangers first team in 2009. His first start came bizarrely as right-back in an Old Firm game and he only lasted eleven minutes after picking up a hamstring injury.

Remained with the club after the demotion and spent two seasons with them in the lower leagues. He scored the last ditch equaliser against Peterhead on that opening day and would go onto score twenty-two league goals during that campaign.

Would suffer an injury during the side’s League One season and never seemed to figure again in manager Ally McCoist’s plans and was released in 2014.

He then went on to sign for Preston North End but failed to make an impact and was sent out on loan to Blackpool and Accrington Stanley. The twenty-seven year old is currently without a club after being dumped by Preston in the summer.

Lewis Macleod: 

The attacking midfielder benefitted from all the turmoil at the club as it fast-tracked him into the first team.

He would repay McCoist’s faith in him by often starring when he played for the ‘Light Blues’ and the youngster played with a maturity that didn’t reflect his age. His eye-catching performances for Rangers in the lower divisions didn’t go unnoticed as Gordon Strachan called him into the Scotland squad, although he didn’t make his debut.

After successful seasons in the bottom two tiers and a bright start to life in the Championship, Rangers sold the teen to Brentford (the Bees were managed by Mark Warburton at the time) in January 2014 for an initial fee of £850k. That enraged the Gers support and ultimately lead to the regime change in the Ibrox boardroom.

After an injury plagued first year and a half at Brentford, Macleod has started to impress for the club this season.

Lee McCulloch:

Would captain the Gers in the lower leagues and was one of the players who stayed on at the club despite interest from elsewhere.

Was no doubt coming to the end of his career but still managed to grab plenty of goals for the team in those years and would play wherever he was asked whether it was as a centre-back, midfielder or as the main striker.

Left the side after they failed to secure promotion in 2015 and probably deserved a better send off than the one he got. Now at Kilmarnock he’s seen mainly as a coach, not as a player.

Was Killie’s temporary manager earlier this year and managed them to a goalless draw against Rangers in the Scottish Cup.

Dean Shiels: 

Another new boy that summer and he too didn’t meet the expectations expected of him. Was always average without being anything beyond that.

The Northern Irish forward would see through the fight back to the Premiership, playing 120 league games for Rangers and scoring thirty-nine goals.

Was a bit-part player under Warburton last year and was released in the summer.

Made the interesting move from Rangers to the League of Ireland when he signed for Irish champions Dundalk. He would score his first goal for the Lilywhites in a cup win over Crumlin United last month.

Barrie Mckay: 

The other star, like Wallace, that is still at the club today.

Had a few loan spells away from Ibrox during the McCoist era and it seemed his future would lie elsewhere. But was given another chance under Warburton and has taken that chance with both hands.

Barrie was an outstanding performer on the wings last term as Rangers galloped towards the Championship title. He would bag nine goals last year, including a stunner against Old Firm rivals Celtic in the Scottish Cup.

Gordon Starchan has since called the youngster into his international set-up and he was given his debut against France in June.

Used Substitutes:

Kevin Kyle: 

The big tall striker made eight league appearances for Rangers that season, scoring three times.

Had persistent injury problems, never looked entirely fit and serious issues with his mobility. This lead to him departing in March 2013 by mutual consent.

Would spend a year at Ayr United during the 2013/14 season and he’s score five times for the west coast club. Retired from football in 2014 and has since returned to work on the ferries.

Interestingly enough he played in the BDO Scottish Darts Open and beat ninth seed Richard Veenstra before being knocked out in the third round.

Fran Sandaza: 

A lot was expected of the Spanish striker at Ibrox after he scored eighteen goals for St Johnstone the previous season.

But he was another summer signing that struggled in the third division, scoring just twice in fourteen league appearances. It didn’t help that suffered from a broken cheekbone in a League Cup tie against Motherwell.

He was famously sacked by the club after a hoax phone call from a Celtic fan. The hoaxer coaxed Fran to tell him about his situation at Rangers including details about his contract.

After failing to sue both Rangers and the hoaxer, Sandaza returned to his homeland. At Girona FC his scoring form returned and he won a move to Japanese side FC Tokyo. But after failing to settle in the Far East, Fran would re-sign for Girona in July.

Hot-Head Costa Needs To Maintain Early Season Form

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When it was announced that Antonio Conte was taking up the reigns at Chelsea, I stated that one of his first orders of business should be persuading Diego Costa to stay at Stamford Bridge.

It’s fair to say that Diego didn’t enjoy the best of seasons last term, but then again who did for the Blues? (Well I suppose Willian did but that was about it.)

Speculation surrounded the Spanish striker all summer. PSG were linked with a move and it was widely reported that Atletico Madrid were desperate to bring the player back to the Vicente Calderon.

But I knew that if Costa stayed in London, he could flourish again in the Premier League as long as he  had a manager who believed in him.

New boss Conte certainly think’s highly of his striker and said this:

“Diego is a great player. I know that he is a fantastic finisher but I think he can still improve a lot. I hope for this.”

After five league games things are looking good again for Costa at the Bridge. He’s bagged five goals and created an assist in the only Premier League game that he failed to find the net in.

The twenty-seven year old is firing again and his movement seems to have improved. Defenders struggle with his brute strength, decent turn of pace and his quality finishing.

Now being Diego Costa it hasn’t all been sweetness and light.

During the opening game of the season against West Ham United, Costa would score a late winner but only after escaping not seeing a red card for a late challenge on the Hammer’s keeper.

A week later against Watford he was booked for dissent and could have received another yellow had the ref deemed his fall in the Hornet’s penalty area to be a dive. Thankfully for Diego the referee didn’t reach for another card and he would again go on and score a winner for his team.

Diego Costa is just one of those players that feeds off confrontation. He just doesn’t seem happy unless he’s scoring a goal or butting heads with a rival’s centre-half.

If he can control that aggression and continue to grab the important goals then this could be a fantastic year for Costa.

But this weekend could be the real test for Costa as he faces up to old rivals Arsenal.

He’s actually got an unbeaten league record against the Gunners. In four appearances he’s helped his time win three and drawn the other while scoring two goals against the London rivals.

Last season he had an altercation with Gabriel Paulista and that saw the Arsenal defender being shown a red card. Moments earlier Costa would put his hands on Laurent Koscielny’s face and that was missed by the referee. The FA would then retrospectively ban the hot-headed striker for three games.

This time around he needs to stay on the right side of the law. I’d also prefer it if he could stop moaning at referees as it leads to silly yellow cards and suspensions. But maybe that’s asking for too much!

Hopefully this time around everyone can discuss Diego Costa’s football talents and not his use of the dark arts.

Enhanced Odds Vs Free Bets, which is better?

odds

The world of online gambling is constantly evolving but no area of it has changed more profoundly as ‘new customer offers’ which have undergone a major transformation since the arrival of Enhanced Odds.

Like free bets, Enhanced Odds are a great ‘something for nothing’ offer. But they seemingly attain more headline attention than the traditional ‘open an account and get a free bet’ type promotion and therein online sportsbooks like them. Punters should like them too as they actually give new customers a lot more bang for their buck.

Such is the pace of change in the online gambling world that ‘Enhanced Odds’ offers were originally only directed at major events and key contenders such as the ante-post favorite in the Derby or FA Cup final but now companies like 888Sport offer enhanced odds like the ones shown here:https://www.freebets.com/enhanced-odds on a wide variety of sports and markets.

888Sport Treble the Odds

888Sport’s enhanced odds offer is treble the odds on your first bet which, if you do the math, you may agree represents a far better option than a 100% matched bet on your opening wager. And best of all this can be on any event of your choosing, whatever your first bet is, the odds will be trebled.

A £10 on a 3/1 winner at 888Sport will be paid out as a 9/1 shot. Elsewhere a £10 wager on a 3/1 wager will be paid out at 3/1 (£40 return) leaving you the task of identifying another big-priced winner using a traditional/standard free bet, to make up the financial shortfall of what you would have won elsewhere.

Of course the free bet is being credited to a new account regardless of how your first bet fares but, on balance, we are convinced this is a better deal for new customers.

Best Odds Guaranteed PLUS at Ladbrokes

Some firms use enhanced odds to reward existing customers, not just new account holders. Ladbrokes lead the way in this sphere with their ongoing ‘Best Odds Guaranteed PLUS’.

This promotion gives horse racing punters a price boost on bets that have won at a bigger price than they took. For example, if a horse wins at 7/2 but you have taken an early price of 3/1 (or less), Ladbrokes will enhance the price of the winner paying you off at 4/1.

BOG+ is available on all UK and Irish horse races and selected other meetings where specified on Ladbrokes.com. The offer is available to new and existing internet and mobile customers only and the maximum stake for BOG+ to apply is £/€200 for Win bets and £/€200 for each-way bets.

With the additional winnings paid in cash and not as a free bet, this offer is a real winner.

Celebrating Emile Heskey!

heskey

Sometimes it’s easy to go with the crowd and sneer at certain players because everyone else does it.

Throughout his career Emile Ivanhoe Heskey had his detractors, but I think his style and his ability was often under-appreciated.

The forward made his debut as a seventeen year old for his hometown club Leicester City, although even then he had the physique that resembled more of a heavyweight boxer than a young footballer just starting out.

It was in the following season that people really sat up and took notice of the teenager as Heskey scored seven times and helped Leicester secure a place back to the Premier League.

Obviously everyone bangs on about Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes team as they produced the ultimate miracle and won the top flight title last season but I still remember Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City side with much fondness.

Players like Muzzy Izzet, Robbie Savage, Matt Elliott, Steve Guppy, Neil Lennon, Steve Walsh, Ian Marshall and Tony Cottee are still names that roll off the tongue. They would give their all for the fans, the manager and the club.

Heskey typified that team spirit and the team comes first attitude.

As a young striker he had brute strength, raw ability and a good turn of pace too. He’d simply bully vastly more experienced defenders into submission!

After four full Premier League seasons with the Foxes Heskey would leave for Liverpool in an £11m deal. He left Filbert Street after scoring forty-six goals for the side and he also helped them to secure two League Cup triumphs.

To show the mark of the man, when the Foxes were struggling financially in the early 2000s Heskey would give his former side a six figure sum in a bid to help them out. He would later say:

“I just gave it unconditionally because of my love for the club. They were in a bad way. It was desperate. It was sad to see the club I played for and went to cup finals with in such a terrible state.

“I was a ball boy at Filbert Street and I went to playing at the old Wembley with my parents watching. Everything about what happened for me – the 5-1 win with England in Germany – was all down to starting here.

A quality I’ve always admired about Heskey’s style is just how much hand-work he’d put in for his team. Throughout his career he’d outmuscle opponents, turn defenders, win flick-ons, hold the ball up and run tirelessly all day.

Basically Emile was England’s best build up man during his era. His play would often allow more prolific strikers to flourish. The obvious main benefactor being Michael Owen, for both club and country.

The two struck up a great understanding and Owen would be prolific as Heskey did most of the hard work. It was the ideal big man, little man partnership.

Most famously the two would destroy old rivals Germany in Munich. It’s crazy to think but that 5-1 away victory for the Three Lions was almost exactly fifteen years ago. It was all part of the supposed ‘golden generation’ for English football with the likes of Gerrard, Cole, Scholes, Ferdinand and Beckham coming together at the same time.

Leading the line was the Liverpool duo of Owen and Heskey and they gave their best displays that night. Owen helped himself to a stunning hat-trick, with Emile expertly nodding the ball down to him for his second.

But for Heskey his glorious moment came on the seventy-third minute as England fans had just finished a rendition of ‘God Save the Queen’. Beckham played a through ball to Scholes, who in turn looked up and played in Heskey. The big man was like a train powering in on goal as he steadied himself with a touch on his left onto his right foot. The striker then slotted the ball beyond Oliver Khan and history was made!

Emile Heskey would then produce another iconic moment as he ran towards the corner flag, brought out an imaginary putter and sunk his put to celebrate his great moment.

Now a lot of England fans moan about Heskey’s strike rate as an international forward. Yes seven goals in sixty-two caps isn’t an extraordinary stat I give you that, but look at his all round game and the other things he brought to the table.

Michael Owen was far more lethal playing alongside his Liverpool teammate than he was with Alan Shearer or Wayne Rooney up beside him. In twenty-five appearances alongs side Heskey, Owen would score thirteen times while Emile scored four. His scoring form wasn’t that much worse than Teddy Sheringham or Peter Beardsley, yet they are remember fondly for the link-up play they provided for their number nines.

See Heskey’s job wasn’t really about scoring goals, it was about softening up the opposition and being useful to those playing around him. International defences hated playing against him as they couldn’t handle his power, willingness to run, arial ability and his speed. It would tire them out and then someone like Owen would take advantage of any mistakes.

His selflessness was needed in that England team of egos and talent. It needed a player to put in a shift whether it be up front or on the left wing and do it without any fuss.

His time at Anfield ended in 2004, after four and a bit seasons with Liverpool. He’d leave with a UEFA Cup winners medal, two more League Cup wins, a Super Cup and an FA Cup triumph. He also managed to score sixty goals for the club.

His former boss at Liverpool Gerard Houllier would say this of him:

“Some people like to criticise Emile, but I can produce plenty of facts and figures to back up how important he is to us, and how many goals we have scored that he has been involved in”

See that’s another thing about Mr Heskey, you cannot find a bad word about the guy when it comes to those that have worked with him. He seems like a genuine stand up type of guy!

Former Reds captain Steven Gerrard sums it up well here:

“Maybe Emile is the sort of player only appreciated by team-mates. If you play with him week in, week out you see first hand all the effort and hard work he does for the team.”

After Liverpool he had varying amounts of success at Birmingham, Wigan and Aston Villa. In 2010, Fabio Capello recalled him for England’s World Cup squad in South Africa, mainly because they failed to find a replacement for him in the first place.

As I’ve previously alluded to, people love to beat the big guy up with the stick that he didn’t score enough. But his 11o Premier League goals isn’t too shabby a tally. It has him in the top twenty Premier League all-time goalscorers, ahead of stars like Ruud van Nistelrooy, Didier Drogba, Ryan Giggs, Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo, Dimitar Berbatov, Paul Scholes, Peter Crouch and Matt Le Tissier.

In 2012, Emile decided to have a crack in Australia and he bagged ten goals in forty-two A-League appearances.

He would return to England and play for Bolton Wanderers under former teammate Neil Lennon, who would then try and persuade the now thirty-seven year old to join him at Hibs this summer. Heskey politely declined.

Everyone remembers the prolific scorers, the flamboyant playmakers and the heroic centre-backs. People also like to take an interest in the bad boys and the gobby footballers who all too often have too much to say.

I like to shine a light on the players who were outstanding professionals, who worked their bollocks off, were successful and didn’t bitch and moan when things weren’t going all their own way.

So Emile Heskey I salute you!

Mourinho Needs To Drop Fellaini And Rooney To Kick Start Season

wayne-gooney

One of the biggest differences between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho so far during their stints in Manchester has been Pep’s ruthlessness when dealing with his sides more established players.

The Spaniard has dumped Yaya Toure out of his team and he’s sent former number one Joe Hart out on loan to Torino. Both of these players were vital as Manchester City went from also-rans to Premier League title challengers and winners. But Pep believed that neither of these ‘key’ players were a good fit for his new style and he cut them from the pack. As I say it’s ruthless but so far it’s proved to be a good decision as City sit top of the league with a two point gap.

Over at Manchester United and Jose has been slightly more conservative in his approach. The once labelled ‘Special One’ has spent big and he has decided to dump mainly youngsters from his pool. The one exception has been German World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has been deemed surplus to requirements by Jose and is now training with the United youth team.

Unfortunately for United and Mourinho, club captain Wayne Rooney doesn’t look to be natural fit in Jose’s new look Man United team. Yet England’s all-time leading goalscorer continues to start for the Red Devils.

Unlike so many others, I don’t think Man Utd are currently in a crisis. Yes they’ve lost three games in a row but City are better at the moment and I doubt the Europa League is Mourinho’s top priority. The Watford defeat, well that should be seen a wake up call and it could be a watershed moment for Rooney’s United career.

Now let me state I’ve always been a fan of Wayne Rooney but with that being said, this isn’t the same Wayne Rooney who’d score for fun or would destroy opposition defences.

At thirty years of age Rooney now looks slower and often looks lost on the football field.

Against Watford he struggled to make even the easiest of passes. As a supposed creative force he failed to create one decent chance in open play and he didn’t even try and run with the ball at his feet.

Shots on target? Zero! This from a player who has built are career out of being a dangerous forward.

In the game at Vicarage Road he was deployed as a central midfielder yet he still made zero well timed tackles. Then frustration gets the better of him and he starts moaning and committing fouls.

Simply put Wayne is fast becoming a passenger and United can’t afford for that to happen. Surely Henrik Mkhitaryan or Juan Mata would be a better bet as a number ten .

When you remember Sir Alex Ferguson’s last season, he wouldn’t trust Rooney in the bigger games (Real Madrid) and he believed Robin van Persie was a greater attacking threat. That was three years ago. So if Fergie thought Rooney was in decline then, you can only imagine he’d have been sold before now had the legendary Scotsman had stayed on any longer at Old Trafford.

It looks as though Mourinho is stubbornly, like Louis van Gaal before him, trying to find Rooney a place in the team. That unfortunately unbalances the side and makes them weaker.

One of the biggest victims in this confused looking United side is record signing Paul Pogba.

The Frenchman is also hampered with Marouane Fellaini playing in alongside him or just behind him.

The Belgian giant is full of endeavour but that’s not enough at this level. His best games in a United jersey have came when his side have had their backs to the wall and he’s been used as a battering ram in the opposition teams penalty area as United report to long ball tactics.

He lacks defensive discipline to shore things up and he also lacks creative imagination to play as a deep-laying playmaker. To get the best out of Pogba you need at least one of those traits in the player playing alongside him. If you look at Watford’s first goal yesterday, you can see that Fellaini was defending too deep and should’ve been closing down the space that Etienne Capoue found himself in.

The funny thing is that Mourinho has those types of players already at his disposal in Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Michael Carrick and Daley Blind. For me they’d be much better partners for Pogba in the United midfield.

So far last week was just a blip for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho but surely the Portuguese boss needs to learn from his selection mistakes and take out Rooney and Fellaini as he searches for the right balance to kick-start his sides title bid. He cannot afford to have them confusing things in there for much longer!